60 birthday alexa

Internet entropy hits LiveJournal too

Well, it looks as though LiveJournal is also closed to me.

I couple of weeks ago I wanted to post something, but couldn't, it simply woulf nt simply would not let me. Looks like they've changed their editor to make it unusable on my computer (I'm typing this on another one).

For a long time WordPress and Blogger were in competition to make their editors as user-hostile  as possible, and WordPress finally made theirs impossible to use, with impeccable timing right at the beginning  of the Covid epidemic, when people needed electronic communications because they needed to keep a physical distance. I can still read my WordPress blogs, at http://khanya.wordpress.com and http://ondermynende.wordpress.com (with the old easy-to-use LiveJournal editor one could make those URLs clickable, but I don't see any way to do it with this abomination).

Blogger is still usable — just. It's lost a lot of functionality (their useful "Blog This" feature is now useless), and is a lot harder to use, but it is still possible to post something, but for how much longer?

So, until Blogger shuts of their stuff entirely, I'll still be blogging at 

https://methodius.blogspot.com

60 birthday alexa

The Secret Mountain (book review)

The Secret Mountain (Secret Series, Book 3)The Secret Mountain by Enid Blyton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The first Enid Blyton novel I read was The Secret of Kilimooin, when I was about 9 years old, and it is still the one I like best. As a child I read a couple of others in the "secret" series, and liked them too, and discovered it was relatively unknown. Most people, when they think of Enid Blyton, think of the "Famous Five" books, perhaps because there were more of them. I read one or two of them as a child, but perhaps because I was too old for them by then, I didn't much like them. So when I discovered The Secret Mountain in a second-hand bookshop, I bought it and read it.

The Secret MountainThe parents of three English children, Peggy, Mike and Nora, go missing when their aircraft disappears somewhere in Africa, and with their foster brother Jack, and their friend Prince Paul of Baronia (who as a prince, has an aeroplane of his own at his disposal) fly off to Africa in search of them, accompanied by Prince Paul's pilot/retainers Ranni and Pilescu.

I didn't find it as good as the other books in the "secret" series that I have read, perhaps because it is set in Africa, and I live in Africa. Though The Secret of Kilimooin is also set outside the UK, it doesn't seem to have quite the same sense of smug English superiority. In The Secret Mountain there are two non-English children, Paul, the Prince of Baronia, and an African boy, Mafumu. When they do something good or brave, it is "like an English boy". The little incidents in which such things happen pile up, until the overall impression is, in the words of the Flanders and Swann song

The English, the English, the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest

Mafumu is otherwise quite an engaging character, more so than any of the other children, perhaps because he is abused by his uncle, but that is somewhat spoilt by the servile fear he, like the other Africans in the story, shows at the wonders of English technology.

I bought The Secret Mountain on the very day that I finished my own children's book Cross Purposes, and uploaded the manuscript to Smashwords for publication as an ebook. What I cound very interesting was that Enid Blyton's book had several tropes that I used in my own story -- a group of children travel by air to a strange country, where they find themselves among people whose language they do not speak or understand. There they meet a local boy with whom they share an adventure. So part of the interest was seeing the way in which Enid Blyton handled these tropes.

View all my reviews
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II-20 The Christian Hope: Karabakh or Bethlehem?

This was written at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union and is
a meditation on the deep human tendency to tribal conflict. Occasioned
by the then current, in 1989, battle between Armenians and Azeris for
the region of Karabakh it has of course more recent parallels up to
today. Collapse )
    60 birthday alexa

    More on words and meanings

    One of the things that sometimes puzzles or frustrates me is the way that words change their meanings, sometimes so rapidly that the meanings soon conflict, and the words become "skunked" -- they can no longer be used for meaningful communication because you don't know what the person who has just used the word to you means by it.

    One of these words that I've been hearing a lot recently is "woke", used as an adjective or a noun rather than a verb.

    I've written something about it here: Words and Meanings: Woke.:

    The main meaning of "woke" is to be well-informed and aware of the facts, especially about issues of social justice.

    In my youth the term we used for that was "with it", and sometimes "hip", though that applied mainly to music.

    You were either "with" the scene (situation, circumstances, what was happening in a social milieu), or hip to it, or you weren't.

    The terms originated in the counter-culture in the USA, but "with it" gradually taken over by mainstream media, and then the advertising industry, who diluted the meaning until it came to mean merely "trendy". They changed the meaning to imply that you weren't "with it" if you didn't use this brand of soap for the power of your glow, or drive this brand of car to show who you were, or whatever. So "with it" gradually came to mean its opposite. So from being among the few who were "in the know", to be "with it" gradually came to mean being one of the herd, who believed what the advertisers wanted them to believe about all the products they sold, including soap, deaodorants and international warfare.

    So "woke", for some people,  seems to have come to mean something else, though most of those I've asked seem to have difficulty in articulating what it does mean to them. All I've ever had is inhoherent ranting about abortion, LGBTQ (sometimes followed by various other letters) and various other issues that seem to be more trendy than woke.

    But if one sees "woke" as primarily concerned with social justice and human rights, abortion seems to me to be a rather ambiguous example, and using it seems likely to muddy the waters still more. Those who are most concerned about abortion are divided into two camps concerned almost exclusively with one of two conflictin rights: the right to bodily integrity of the mother, and the right to life of the child. The two sides call themselves "pro-choice" or "pro-life", and denounce the other as "anti-choice and anti-life" respectively. And there is nothing "woke" about either.
    As long as you take a firm moral stand in the Western world you will rally a great number of people to your cause regardless of how deficient you are in understanding the situation (Marshall McLuhan. ‘Communication Media: Makers of the Modern World’, 1959).
    And it is understanding the situation that constitutes "wokeness".
    60 birthday alexa

    Words and meanings: Woke

    Someone I follow on Twitter recently posted:
    If your argument against something is that it is "woke" I will assume that you are so ignorant you cannot create a cogent argument and I shall feel no obligation to respond to your "claim".
    I first heard people using "woke" as an adjective or a noun about 6-7 years ago, and so I looked it up. It was US slang, and so I thought a US dictionary would be authoritative. So I tried Merriam-Webster:
    woke adjective
    woker; wokest
    Definition of woke
    chiefly US slang
    : aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)
    The problem is, however, that about 4 out of 5 people who use the word "woke" as an adjective seem to use it in contexts that indicate that they think it is a bad thing.

    Do they therefore think it is important to be passively inattentive to important facts and issues, or to be actively attentive to unimportant facts and issues?

    What puzzles me is that so many people who claim to be Christians seem to be among those who think that being "woke" is a bad thing. The graphic on the right seems to spell out the meaning according to the Merriam-Webster definition, and it seems to me that the people most likely to think that those are bad things would be more influenced by the writings of  Ayn Rand than the Bible, and Ayn Rand was a hard-core atheist who preached the virtues of selfishness.

    If there is to be any meaningful communication, there is ssurely some obligation for those who think it is bad to be "woke" to explain why (other than simply pointing to the works of Ayn Rand) they think it is bad to be "well-informed, thoughtful, compassionate, humble and kind."

    I am an Orthodox Christian, and every year during Great Lent, Orthodox Christians pray to God to make them woke, in the words of the Lenten Prayer of St Ephraim:
    O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

    But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

    Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.
    Idle talk is talk that is the opposite of thoughtful and well-informed.

    And much of the talk that I hear about "woke" nowadays seems to be thoughtless and ill-informed.

    And much "talk" on social media seems to be idle talk in that it is thoughtless and ill-informed. So many tweets are incomprehensible because people are reluctant to state clearly the underlying assumptions on which they are based. People use terms like "woke" and "woke issues" without saying what they mean by "woke" or specifying what the "woke issues" are, or saying what they think is "woke" about them.

    And so often, on social media, as someone else put it, "I feel like I’m seeing the aftermath of some discourse here." People respond to something you say as if it were part of another conversation altogether, one that you haven't heard.

    So perhaps "woke" is another word that has been skunked, used to mean so many different and incompatible things that it has lost all meaning, so that you need to ask people to explain what they mean by it every time they use it.

    Anyway, it now seems to be getting replaced by a new term with a similar meaning -- "based".

    But that seems to be a whole nother can of worms.


    So in the mean time I repeat what my Twitter friend said:
    If your argument against something is that it is "woke" I will assume that you are so ignorant you cannot create a cogent argument and I shall feel no obligation to respond to your "claim".
    60 birthday alexa

    Two children's dream/fantasy books

    I've just read two children's fantasy books, which I found confusingly similar

    In both books the protagonist is an 11-year-old girl whose name begins with E -- Elspeth in one case, and Effie in the other. In both the girl's closest friends are two boys, in both the children are given detention by nasty tyrannical teachers, and in both the girl gets transported to a magical dream world in which she discovers relatives she never knew she had.

    Dragon's GreenDragon's Green by Scarlett Thomas

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    A children's fantasy story with a lot of arbitrary and chaotic magic.

    Effie Truelove is given detention with a couple of boys from her class. Their detention consisted in being locked in a broom cupboard for an hour to write 600 lines, but one of the boys finds a way to escape, and the three begin to become friends. Effie was given detention because she was late for school, and the reason she was late was that her grandfather, whom she had begged to teach her magic, had died. He had refused to teach her magic because he had promised her father that he wouldn't. But he did promise to give Effie (whose full name was Euphemia) his collection of rare books when he died.

    Effie's father, however, who is a nasty tyrant, sells the books to an antiquarian book dealer. and his other belongings to a "charity man", who seems to be anything but charitable, and turns out to be the uncle of Wolf, the boy who helped Effie to escape from detention. The boys decide to help Effie get the books back, but are caught by the book dealer and locked up, while Effie swans off to another world through magic she doesn't understand.

    And so the story continues. I suppose it is in the nature of magic to be chaotic and arbitrary, but so, it seemed to me, were the motivations of the characters, and it was all a bit much. I've often wondered about novel-writing software that provides a space to record the "goals" of a character, and once participated in a writing group where people talked a lot about the goals and motivations of characters, and I wondered why they did so. It seemed a bit arbitrary and artificial, like outcomes-based education, where you hasve to articulate and specify the outcome for each step of learning something, at which point I get impatient and I'm inclined to say, "I'll know it when I see it." And in this case I saw what a lot of apparently unmotivated behaviour looked like. Perhaps the nastiness of Effie's father could be explained by his being under a spell, but it was never explained in this story, though there is a sequel, and perhaps it is explained there. The book dealer's behaviour was explained, but not that of the "charity man".

    The Shadow GardenThe Shadow Garden by Malla Duncan

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I got this book on the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale, and started to read it just to see what I had got, but found it was uncannily similar to Dragon's Green, which I had just borrowed from the library, and found myself getting thoroughly confused because of the similarities in characters and plot, so I decided to finish the library book first and come back to this one when I had returned it.

    The Shadow Garden has a dream-like quality, similar to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. As in dreams, there are abrupt transitions from one scene to the next, with no reason or logic behind them. In a dream one can get into a car, and find that one is riding a bicycle or a horse, or some other mode of transport, without noticing the transition. In this book there are similar abrupt transitions, barely noticed by the characters, and the characters seem to ignore things that the readers wonder about.


    At one point they are in the library of an ancient castle that belongs to a vampire count. The library catches fire, but none of the characters, least of all its owner, seems to think of putting the flames out, and just note them spreading and taking hold in passing. Instead they use papers to make tapers to travel to another part of the castle, which has been damaged by an earthquake.

    And this is related to a trope that seems to be common to many fantasy books -- I also found it in The Sword of Shannara -- the deserted passages and halls of the castle are lighted by candles or lamps or flaming torches, whose flames seem to remain inexplicably alight with no one to tend them or light them, until they, equally inexplicably, all go out, and so the characters need to make paper tapers to guide them through the dark passages. In my experience such tapers burn for less than a minute, but here they last for a couple of hours at least, through several scenes, including some abrupt transitions.

    That's OK, because one knows that it is dream-like fantasy, in which anything can happen and probably will, and there doesn't need to be any logic or reason behind it. But in the Alice books there is a kind of dreamland logic to it, and it occurs to Alice to question some of the illogicalities, but in this one the characters just seem to accept most of them. And in some cases the gaps and transitions seemed to be a bit too much. At some points in the story it felt as though there were several pages, or even a whole chapter or two missing.

    In Dragon's Green there was similarly weirdly illogical behaviour by some of the characters. At one point Effie leaveas one of her friends swinging from a light5 fitting in a room full of poisonous snakes, while she goes off to try to find someone who might possibly be able to help, if she finds them at home and if they are able to help. Again, this is a dream-like quality, at least in my experience. In my dreams I'm always going of to try to find something that I need to perform an immediate task, and have all sorts of adventures and diversions on the way, and usually wake up before getting back to the main task. These books have almost as many diversions as Tristram Shandy.

    Nevertheless, I found The Shadow Garden an enjoyable read, more so than Dragon's Green and if you like books set in fantasy dream worlds, this one is worth reading (you can get a copy here). Dragon's Green was commercially published, and The Shadow Garden is self published, but I enjoyed the "indie" book more.

    Both books have sequels, and are the first book in a series, but I doubt that I'll read more, partly because finding sequels in our local library is a rather hit and miss (mostly miss) affair, but also because in both books the protagonist is discovering that they have powers that most other people do not have, and I suspect thatin the sequels they'll be fully-fledged superheroes, and I don't really go much for books about superheroes, or heroes with special powers. I prefer my fantasy more along the lines of that of the Inklings, where the villains may have superpowers, but the heroes are ordinary people, and in some cases little people, like children or hobbits, who appear smaller and weaker than the villains.

    As G.K. Chesterton puts it:
    ...oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dullness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure for ever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.
    60 birthday alexa

    More Incommunicado: Communication 2022 vs 1722

    Up at 4:48. Bloke commented on my Khanya blog, where I had mentioned Arthur Blaxall, saying he was writing a book on Arthur Blaxall and wants to talk to me about him. I reply by email and say fine, I'd be happy to.

    But then think, Gmail probably won't deliver my mail to him, because my email address is not in his address book, so I want to approve of his comment on Wordpress and tell him I've emailed him, so he can check his spam. But WordPress says your browser is not supported. Try another browser. Not supported.

    For all our sophisticated electronic communications, people back in the 18th century probably had better communications than us. Put a message in a bottle, seal it up, and toss it into the sea.

    > Author: Max Wallace
    > Email: maxwallace@gmail.com
    > Comment:
    > Hello. I am writing a book which discusses, in part, Arthur Blaxall´s
    > anti-Apartheid activism and his efforts on behalf of disabled South
    > Africans. I would very much love to talk with you about your memories of
    > Arthur if you´re open to it.

    He posted that in response to this article on my blog: 50 Years Ago: Verwoerd Assassinated.

    At least I can still read my own article on WordPress in my browser, even if I can't approve (and therefore can't reply to) comments on it.

    But LiveJournal still works with my browser, and is easy to use. So, for the moment, does Blogger, though the people at Google are trying very hard to make it clunkier and more difficult to use.

    So I'm posting this here in the hope that, if Max Wallace is doing a Google search for Arthur B;axall, it might deign to show him this (if it isn't boycotting Russia, where I believe the LiveJournal servers are now located), and he might just see this message -- CHECK YOUR GMAIL SPAM FOLDER -- because that is where G00gle is inclined to put mail from people whose address is not in your address book, or unless you've written to that person before.

    How's that for a Catch-22? You can only receive mail if you've already replied to it.

    So this post is my message in a bottle, which I hope will reach Max Wallace somehow if my email doesn't.

    Oh, and by the way, LiveJournal, I don't want to try your new editor. The old one works just fine, and is much easier to use than the current one on Blogger, and the last one I was allowed to use on WordPress, about 3 years ago. I've had very bad experiences (UX) with "new and improved" editors, and don't weant to risk it here.
    60 birthday alexa

    Incommunicado

    When we got back from church on Holy Saturday, 23 April 2022, we foudd we had no phone and internet service. We reported the fault to Telkom, but their fault reporting service seems totally dysfunctional, and they keep telling us the fault has been resolved when it hyas not, and there is still no service.

    They are supposed to be changing over from copper to fible cables, and they keep sening me SMSs to say that they are "tracking your order", but in thye mean time we have no service at all. I don't care whether it is copper of fibgre, as long as it works.

    But while it is not working, I'm not able to read or reply to email, send or receive files etc. I'm typing this in an internet cafe wearing a mask which keeps fogging up my glasses, so please excuse any typos. I may be able to access my Gmail address but logging in takes forever. Some people have asked me to do work for them, but I don't know how they will get it to me unless they bring it physically.

    So I'm writing this to let anyone who was wondering why I hadn't replied to an email or something that I'll reply as soon as Telkom gets round to delivering it.

    Here is Telkom's unhelpful help page -- tracking a fault report:


    It claims that the problem reported on 23 April was resolved 2 days later, but the line is still dead on 4 May.

    Until Telkom get their act together and restor the service, urgent communications can be sent to my Gmail address hayesstw@gmail.com, or you can reach me on the Signal messagin app.
    60 birthday alexa

    On reviewing children's books

    I'm witing this in Read an Ebook Week, and I'm hoping that some of the children's literature fundis[1] I follow on Twitter will be moved to read and review or critique[2] one or more of my children's fantasy/adventure books.

    One would normally expect the best reviewers and critics of children's books to be children, but children rarely write book reviews except when specifically asked to do so by their teachers at school. So the next best thing would be reviews by teachers or scholars of children's literature. I suppose my ideal reviewer, one whose reviews and critique I would find most valuable, would be an expert on chidren's literature who had read the book to their own child or children, and elicited and noted the childrens' responses to the book and added their own observations.

    If any such reviews were favourable, they could help potential readers who might enjoy that kind of book to discover my books, and of course avoid them if they did not like those kinds of books, which they would also, of course, do if the reviews were unfavourable.

    For me, as the writer, both kinds of review would be helpful for any future books I might write. A fundi on children's literature might be able to say "my child did not understand this when I read it to her and (I had to/was not able to) explain it to her." Of course any reviewer could say such a thing, but a childrn's literature fundi would also have a wider experience of such literature, a wider knowledge of chidren's literature, and a better knowledge of what works and what doesn't.

    Another thing that would be helpful would be if a reviewer compared my book with another in a similar genre, ether favourably or unfavourably. For example, a couple of reviewers of my books said they thought I had been influenced by Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, and compared them with those. As it was, I had not read those books, and so the reviews enabled me to discover them, and I ordered a couple of them, since I had not seen them in book shops, and so discovered some more books that I liked. A reviewer who was a children's literature fundi, however, might have a much wider range of books to make such comparisons with, and so could enable me, as the writer, and other readers, to discover more of the kind of stories we like.

    Another way in which the critique of experts could help is that they are involved in the field of education, and are thus in a better position to judge the educational value of fiction than the general reader. My children's books, though not intended to be primarily didactic, do have some educational aims. They are set in the apartheid period in South Africa, which is a foreign country to South African children today. They are taught about apartheid in history, but few can imagine what it was actually like. Of course the fantasy element in the books is not historical, and the primary aim is not to give a history lesson, but a teacher of children's literature would be in a better position to say things like "this approach is too subtle" or "this approach is too much blunt force trauma".

    Also, since the books might be read by children outside South Africa, I've tried clarify or explain things that might be culturally unfamiliar, either in time or place. I often do that through one of the children in the stories who is from England, and has to have such things interpreted to her. A reviewer who is an expert in the field could say authoritatively whether such an approach is too subtle or not subtle enough.

    One of my reviewers (not an educational expert) said that modern children would find it incomprehensible that the children in these stories could not just use their cell phones to call for help whenever necessary. I wouldn't know. When I was a child of the age of the children in my stories we lived in a place where there was a four-year waiting list for telephones, and so we never had one. But a teacher of children's literature would be in a better position to judge whether modern children would be able or unable to appreciate such a thing, and whether it needed to be explained. But children in the time of apartheid did not have cell phones.

    So these are just a few of the reasons why I'm really hoping that a few kidlit fundis will review my books, and why, though I'm grateful for any reviews, these would be particularly valuable.

    The books I hope such people will review form part of a series, and both take place mainly in the southern Drakensberg, near the fictitious town of Pineville.

    EncGroveCoverKIN.jpgThe first book Of Wheels and Witches is set in July 1964. The main characters are four children, Jeffery, Catherine, Janet and Sipho, aged from 9-12, from different cultural backgrounds and settings. They are drawn together by a common set of circumstances, and the discovery of a police plot against the father of one of them.

    The second, The Enchanted Grove brings three of the children together again five months later, in December 1964, and they have to face bullies, poachers, a witch and a political plot to influence elections in a neighbouring country (a real historical event, though it is obviously dealt with fititiously in the story).

    The e-book editions may be downloaded from these links (FREE during the week of 6-12 March 2022: Read an Ebook Week).

    Of Wheels and Witches -- see GoodReads reviews here.

    The Enchanted Grove -- see GoodReads reviews here:

    And see here for more about Read an Ebook Week.


    ----
    Notes & References

    [1] fundi
    is a South African English word that means a scholar or expert, someone who has a really deep knowledge of a particular subject. It is derived from the Zulu funda meaning to read or learn, and umfundi meaning a reader or learner. There is a similar word in East African English, derived from Swahili (like Zulu, a Bantu language), but there it refers to skill rather than knowledge, fundi wa saa for example, means a watch repairer (saa = "time"). The South African meaning is close to the American "guru" or "go to person" -- an American "computer guru" is a South African "computer fundi".

    [2] for a long time I resisted the verbing of critique but it now seems to have won general acceptance.
    60 birthday alexa

    My opinion of Vladimir Putin

    People on social media seem to like to tell me my opinion of Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian Federation. It seems a rather strange and arrogant attitude to me -- "If I want your opinion I'll give it to you", so though I don't normally like giving my opinion of people, I thought I might try to write it down, so I can refer people to it when they ask me why I hold the opinions that others ascribe to me.

    I'm generally reluctant to criticise people. I might criticise things that they do or say, if I believe the things they do or say are evil, but judgement of the person is something best left to God. It's the principle of "hate the sin but love the sinner".

    Another difficulty with expressing one's opinion of other people is that it changes from time to time. My current opinion of Mr Putin is different from what it was a week ago, or a year ago, or a decade ago. So my opinion expressed here is at the time of writing only, and this time is within a week of Mr Putin ordering a Russian invasion of Ukraine. And, as a friend wrote in the Orthodox Peace Fellowship forum immediately afterwards:

    I heard a former Canadian diplomat say on the radio yesterday that he always regarded Putin as a consummate chess player. Now it seems he’s simply throwing dice.

    I had always regarded Putin as an exponent of Realpolitik, that is the policy of giving priority to the national self interest (as opposed, for example, to principles of morality, justice or compassion), first expounded by the 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

    It would seem to be in Russia's national self-interest to have Ukraine as a friendly neighbour and trade partner.Invading Ukraine seems to be counter-productive in that regard, as all it does is stir up resentment and hatred. Hence the former Canadian diplomat's remark.

    Even before that, however, since 2014, Putin seemed to be going against Russia's national self-interest with regard to Ukraine. People in eastern Ukraine had generally favoured good relations with Russia, people in western Ukraine less so (western Ukraine used to be ruled by Poland/Lithuania). Putin, seeing himself as the protector of Russian-speaking people who formed the majority in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, supported rebels in the east, and occupied Crimea where, after a referendum, the majority said they wished to be part of Russia. But this upset the balance of power in Ukraine, by removing those people who might have voted for a government that would have been well-disposed to Russia, and simply inflamed resentment in the rest pf Ukraine. At the same time, however, the global West actively promoted anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine that was calculated to make it more hostile to Russia. This seems to have caused Putin to lose his cool and start throwing dice.

    People have compared Putin's invasion of Ukraine with the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938. I think a better comparison might be with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. It will probably achieve as much, or as little, as that did.

    In internal policy. Putin seems to have been authoritarian, rather like the South African government under National Party rule between 1948 and 1994 -- muzzling the media, suppressing opposition if it became too vociferous or effective and so on. This has especially been the case since 2014, with the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine against a trade agreement with Russia, which resulted in a putsch against the pro-Russian president, though both he and his immediate successor appear to have been equally corrupt.

    And since then, I have noticed, the Russia Today TV news station became as ardently anti-Western as the Western media were ardently anti-Russian. Before 2014 Russia Today, like Al Jazeera, gave reasonably unbiased and interesting news reports from around the world. After 2014, presumably under pressure from Putin, it became as full of shrill anti-Western propaganda as CNN and the BBC were full of shrill anti-Russian propaganda, and was no longer worth watching.

    And since his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Putin has lost the moral high ground (if he ever had any) and has fallen to the level of Tony Blair, who ordered the bombardment and invasions of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. So my opinion of Vladimir Putin is now much the same as my opinion of Tony Blair since 1999. But I don't know either of them personally. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord sees the heart. It is their belligerent war-mongering policies that I most object to. So again I ask, read what I said about Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.